Posts filed under 'Oahu'
Hawaii is an incredibly popular tourist destination, and many people strive to not only vacation in the Islands, but make repeat trips back. Because Hawaii is comprised of eight islands, four of which are popular to visit, it takes a few trips back and forth to really gain an overall experience of Hawaii. But this post isn’t for the repeat travelers. It’s for the first timers, the Hawaii newcomers.
Those who have explored a Hawaiian Island in the past probably have a good idea of what they’d like to do on their next trip here, but tourists who have never been to the Islands might have a hard time figuring out the best way to maximize the trip. Here is our guide to Hawaii for the first time traveler, plus some side tips we think you might benefit from.
What to pack, when to go? You really don’t need to pack much for Hawaii, although we do recommend at least two bathing suits. This is so you can have a beach day and still have a dry suit to jump into if you decide to hot tub it by night. Or maybe you want to swim in the hotel pool in the morning but want to enjoy the beach in the evening as well- having a variety of suits helps to ensure you’ll always have a dry one to shimmy into.
Don’t forget comfortable walking shoes, a pair of sandals or slippers, a light cover-up, a hat and sunglasses. One thought that always helps ease my packing anxiety is you can always buy it once you’re there. So true. Don’t panic if you forgot your wide-brimmed hat or sun tan lotion- there is plenty for purchase here in Hawaii!
Hawaii has comfortable weather year-round. Unless you’re coming to the islands specifically for something like surfing or whale watching, then the timing for a vacation to Hawaii really just depends on you. Summer months tend to be drier and warmer, especially along the south sides, and wintertime the temperature can drop to the low 60′s in the evening. Cure this with a light sweater though and you’ll be just fine! Also, please note that rain happens in Hawaii year round. So even if you come in the middle of August, you can expect some precipitation. This is how the islands stay so green!
Which leads me to my next tip about expectations. Don’t travel to Hawaii thinking the weather is going to be perfect for your entire stay. Rain can happen on the daily in some parts of these tropics, and we don’t want you to feel disappointed if you get more than you anticipated. It’s a good idea to keep your expectations low, just in case you encounter heavy clouds or passing storms while you’re here. That being said, Hawaii usually has gorgeous weather all year, and even if it does rain, it’s warm! So regardless of the weather, you’ll still have a beautiful vacation.
Decide early about a rental car. Renting a car highly depends on your location, so it’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time. If you’re traveling to a place like Waikiki, Lahaina or Kailua-Kona and plan to spend majority of your time surrounding the resort or condo, then you won’t need a car. But if you’d like to do some exploration of the island and its diverse landscapes, I recommend getting a rental car. Or, break up your vacation by spending the first half without one and the second half with one. This will give you time for getting to know your immediate town surroundings AND exploring beyond it.
Soak up the outdoor activities (surfing, hiking, beach walks, swimming, waterfalls, etc.) If you’re coming to Hawaii, chances are you enjoy the warm beach weather. So soak it up! Spend all day at the beach, plan a hike to a secluded waterfall, get a couple surf sessions in! Take advantage of Hawaii’s bounty and enjoy the outdoors. It is quite possibly the best characteristic of this Aloha state, so take advantage of warm weather and get outside!
Plan at least one ‘hoorah.’ By hoorah I mean one splurge. Something like a cruise around the Na Pali coast on Kauai, a luau in Waikiki or an all-day exclusive island tour on Oahu. This will give the vacation a bit of structure but also help maximize your time in Hawaii by showing you a unique aspect.
Some vacationers might have a bigger budget to work with, in which case I recommend planning more than just one hoorah. Explore Kualoa Ranch on Oahu and take an ATV ride, go horseback riding along Poipu’s coastline on Kauai, snorkel the clear waters of Honolua Bay on Maui, witness the lava and natural wonders of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, watch the sunrise over Mt. Haleakala on Maui, the list goes on and on. These activities are what help to give you a fun and unique experience of the island, especially when you book with an intimate and personalized tour company like Hawaii Jeep Tours.
Explore the foods. Part of the cultural experience in Hawaii is sampling the flavors of this melting pot. With so many different ethnicities comprising the state, there is a plethora of influences in the food and it’s all ono! Try a plate lunch with fresh island fish, a raw poke bowl, a warm malasada, sweet POG juice (passion orange guava), earthy poi, salty edamame, and so much more! With an exotic blend of dishes from around the world to sample, Hawaii is a great place to push your taste bud limits and step outside the comfort zone. Plus it introduces you to authentic Hawaii!
March 7th, 2014
Everyone has a favorite go-to restaurant to fall back on — when you are not quite sure what it is you are craving or you just cannot seem to agree on a place. Bella Mia in Kaimuki used to be our go-to spot for years, until it suddenly shut down one summer. Not a huge deal, but for customers like us, who used to frequent the Italian eatery every other week, we felt stranded in the dining arena!
Since then, we have been diligently searching for our next go-to restaurant, which always happens to be an Italian one. I suppose you would call that comfort food, ha! We tried a few places around town and even on the windward side of Oahu, but nothing seemed to compare. To be totally honest, no other place had bread like Bella! I’m big on bread, so I guess you could say I judge an eatery by its bread. For me, the bread needs to be soft, fluffy and doughy; that’s it.
I am happy to say that I think we finally found a place with bread up to my caliber, lol, called Happy Valley Pasta & Pizza. Not sure yet if it would qualify as our go-to place because it’s a little pricey and out of the way for us. But the bread! The cheesy focaccia bread is amazing. It looks like a little personal pan pizza, except without the tomato sauce. You can douse it with a balsamic vinaigrette, eat it plain or dip it in your pasta sauce. Yum, so good and so worth the calories. But who is counting anyway, especially when you are on vacation?
We have actually drove past this restaurant near Diamond Head for years but never ate at it till recently. Inside, it really is “happy,” as the name suggests. Pale-yellow walls with colorful hand-painted tropical scenery surround customers dining in. It helps that the food is good and prices affordable, too. What customer wouldn’t be happy there? Happy Valley is actually an Italian-Japanese fusion eatery that mixes both flavors in each dish. For instance, a pesto pasta with karaage chicken instead of regular chicken breast or a karaage chicken pizza.
However, you can always still order strictly Italian dishes, like we did — homemade creamy pesto basil pasta, a Caesar salad and the cheesy focaccia bread. It was just enough for the both of us to share, but still seemed like a rather small portion for the $13 or so we paid, which is why I am still on the fence about if we would start coming here on a regular basis. Also, parking is limited to a few stalls in a small lot out back. Otherwise, customers need to find parking in the surrounding neighborhood, which can also be pretty challenging.
I will say that the food, however small the portion, was excellent. I don’t think I have ever had better pesto pasta before. Maybe it was a good thing the portions were smaller? It definitely left room for dessert, which we ended up getting elsewhere. Plus, we did not leave with that disgustingly stuffed-beyond-capacity feeling. I know we will be back to Happy Valley, for the bread especially, but not sure if it will be our go-to spot just yet. We shall see!
Posted by Alyssa S. Navares Follow me on Twitter @Uamalie87
February 22nd, 2014
Take a stroll through the the Kakaako district – between downtown Honolulu and Ala Moana Shopping Center – and you will be amazed by its wonderful transformation. Gone are the days of drab, mono-colored buildings and warehouses that once made up most of this urban area. Today, Kakaako has been splashed with a wave of color – lots and lots of color!
Through a collaborative effort, Hawaii’s art community has been sprucing up the district over the past five years. They get together for one week and whip up wall-size murals and street art that not only add color to the scene but also convey messages of sorts – whether political, cultural or ? There’s a meaning to be discovered, for sure. People walking through Kakaako cannot help but notice the urban canvas; their eyes wander up and down, side to side. But to really take it all in, I would suggest crossing the street for a full panoramic view.
If you happen to be in town while these artists are hard at work, then consider yourself lucky! Observing the mural as a finished piece can be really cool, but there is really nothing like watching it go up live. The week-long festivities in February, called POW! WOW! Hawaii, attracts all walks of life to its events and activities. Artists, art-minded individuals and those just looking for something “off-the-beaten-path” find themselves admiring the artists and their work.
In addition to murals and street art, POW! WOW! Hawaii hosts a number of art lectures, music, gallery shows and live instillations. This year, the event wrapped up with a block party and paired up with the monthly Honolulu Night Market, also held in that district. That meant two city blocks near Auahi Street featuring live art and music – free to the public.
POW! WOW! actually started several years ago in Hong Kong, as away to put the life back into urban cities. Hawaii’s version of the concept came not long after with more involvement from the community. I really love what they have been doing and hope that POW! WOW! can continue its efforts in Hawaii. Along with the aesthetic revitalization of Kakaako came more local businesses as well, like coffee shops and small clothing boutiques. So there can only be more good stuff ahead!
Photos from “Pow! Wow! Hawaii Tumblr Page”
February 19th, 2014
The view from the top of Round Top Drive/Tantalus is definitely one worth seeing while in Hawaii. Below, Honolulu city lights twinkle to the rhythm of a cool, Hawaiian night — illuminating the dark skies above. All is quiet from up there.
As of late, however, the lookout has transformed from a peaceful vista to an overcrowded traffic nightmare! It seems like more and more tour buses have been making the lookout a stop on their agenda, which is totally fine; it’s just that I hope they figure out a system to regulate the increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic at the lookout.
On a recent drive up there, we counted 10 tour buses. They were pulled over to the side of the road, halfway sticking out and therefore, blocking oncoming traffic. At one point, two buses stopped side by side in the road, completely barricading cars coming from either direction. To make matters worse, tour drivers let their passengers out in the middle of the road. Did I mention this was at 9 p.m. with no street lights around whatsoever?
Dangerous would best sum up the situation. Those passengers could have easily been side-swiped by a car, or worse. Motorists in a growing line of cars from both directions seemed to also be getting frustrated, as boisterous honks quickly filled the peaceful night. Meanwhile, passengers continued to pour out onto the road.
Like I said, I have no problem with more people going up there. I just want there to be more oversight by the companies causing the traffic. Maybe there could be a few workers directing traffic and passengers. Some of our neighbors have made similar suggestions to those companies, but I haven’t seen any changes yet.
If you plan to take a drive up there at night, then go before the rush, which I noticed to be about 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on almost any given night. Weekdays are less congested, by far. But please do make sure to check it out. It’s a view worth taking in — despite the added frustration.
February 18th, 2014
Here’s a motto: Try gelato!
One of the perks of being in Hawaii is that it’s never too cold to enjoy a gelato. It is especially pleasant on those hot summer days, when the body temp is beyond the norm, and you just may give into that crazy urge for a midnight swim. Gelato could be your savior.
The Gelato Factory and Cafe happens to be one of the newest additions to Hawaii’s gelato selection. A selection that, to be totally truthful, does not really exist here. There are a few shops on Oahu, Maui and Kauai, but nothing like the Gelato Factory in Kaimuki. Full of charm and a quaint mellow vibe, the little shop definitely stands out from its neighbors. It reminded me of a similar gelato shop in San Francisco, where we would make our first stop every visit.
My fiance and I found the Gelato Factory by accident. We wanted to get dessert from Cafe Laufer, right around the corner from the Gelato Factory, but thanks to Kaimuki’s ever-challenging parking situation, we ended up driving beyond Cafe Laufer and right past a brightly-lit store that caught got my attention. The word “gelato” popped out at me, and it was inevitable that there would be a change of plans tonight.
Turns out, we picked a great night to try this place because it actually just opened that day. I had a feeling this was so; we frequent Kaimuki quite often and never noticed this place. Plus, Kaimuki is such an old town that it is almost rare that a new shop or restaurant opens up here. These mom-and-pops have been here for decades, which explains why it popped out at us. The contrast of new and old was a nice look for the Gelato Factory. It was really also really neat to experience it on opening day. You could just feel the wonderful blend of excitement and curiosity swirling through the store. Customers, who were most likely friends of the owner, had been walking in bearing gifts – from flower baskets to those good luck Japanese cats.
The decor inside is fresh and simply chic. Mason jars of herbal teas lined the wooden countertop, while customers looked up at the chalkboard menus hanging above. The white walls appeared purposefully bare; probably to balance out the super lively gelato flavors waiting to be ordered. I can imagine there being a display case of freshly-baked macaroons in its near future. That would go great with the coffee.
We tried several flavors but ended up getting peanut butter oreo and coffee with chocolate chips. A very good combo that suited both of our taste palates. I love anything peanut butter, while he loves anything coffee – so it was a win-win situation for us. And although it was well after 8 p.m., I could not resist tacking on a mocha to our order. The verdict? So good! The gelato and coffee went surprisingly well together. I will most definitely be returning to the Gelato Factory and highly recommend you try it the next time you are in Hawaii
Posted by Alyssa S. Navares Follow me on Twitter @Uamalie87
February 16th, 2014
As I write this, it just so happens to be Valentine’s Day. While February 14th may have given me the inspiration, this topic is relevant 365 days a year and can be used by vacationers and residents alike. Why not switch up your daily lunch routine (or evening meal for that matter!) and pack a picnic to go. Enjoy that high noon sandwich, pre-dinner pupus, or wine and dessert on top a picnic blanket, beneath the wide swatch of sky.
There’s nothing like breathing in the outdoors, so bring your sweetheart, pack the kids or make the trip solo. If you’re in need of a place to picnic while on Oahu, check out the recommendations below.
- Tantalus Lookout
- This is the quintessential lookout spot in Honolulu and it tends to get crowded right around sunset time. But people usually only stay for a short while, so I suggest either posting up early in the day for brunch or outlasting the crowd after sunset. But really, you can come here at anytime of day and watch as the hours and natural light change the city below. It really is quite a spectacular sight of Hawaii’s famous metropolis.
- Valley of the Temples
- Tucked away in the lush interior of Oahu’s east side, this memorial park winds through rolling green hills of tombstones (think peaceful not morose) and ends at the Byodo-In Buddhist temple complex. You can unroll a picnic almost anywhere here; along the banks of the koi ponds, next to a gurgling stream or within a meditation structure, there are many nooks and crannies to explore. It costs $3 to enter however, so be sure to get some cash back when purchasing your picnic goodies at the store.
- Lyon Arboretum
- Perched in the back of Manoa Valley is an arboretum to take your breath away. Tropical, lush and lovingly maintained, there are 200 acres of botanical garden grounds to walk through and enjoy. You can bring a picnic basket and have a leisurely experience next to the mossy stone pavilion or Asian-style courtyard. Or, be adventurous and pack your picnic in a backpack to bring along with you on a hike into Manoa Valley’s tropical rainforest.
- Ko Olina Lagoons.
- With four different coves to choose from, all equally beautiful and quaint, you’re guaranteed to find the ideal grassy (or sandy) spot for your picnic. Public parking is available at each lagoon, and although limited, you can usually find a spot in less than 10 minutes. One of the lagoons has palapa umbrellas if you seek shade and all four lagoons have ample palm trees for ambiance and equal cool-down zones. Sit next to the lapping waters, against the coastline or on the grass, there is tons of space to explore in Ko Olina.
- Kaiaka Bay Beach Park
- In Haleiwa, this quiet park is sprawling and uncrowded. Probably because most people looking to picnic on the North Shore are more enticed by the popular spots of Waimea, Ehukai and Sunset along the ‘Seven Mile Miracle’. Kaiaka has public restrooms, showers, picnic tables and parking and is easily accessible. You can drive along the loop to scope out the perfect picnic zone or walk the length of the park’s grassy space to spread out a blanket on the sandy shores.
- Ehukai Beach Park
- This park is fronted by world-famous surf break Banzai Pipeline. So if landmark sightseeing is your agenda for the day, this is a great picnic place. There are only a handful of tables, but you can walk on the beach for miles in either direction to find someplace more secluded. Public restrooms, showers and parking also make this park easy to enjoy.
- Chinaman’s Hat
- This is a great place for photo opps during your picnic day. Chinaman’s Hat is the island located off the coast of Oahu’s northeastern side- backed by the Ko‘olau mountain range- and is a popular place for tourists and locals alike. Also boasting public facilities, this place has both the beach and a large grassy area that are equally perfect for picnicking.
And because a picnic is amplified with good food, here’s a few local snack ideas to pack if you’re in Hawaii: poke, won ton chips, macadamia nuts, edamame (soy beans), tropical fruit, olives, cheese, crackers and don’t forget the Hawaiian Sun refreshments!
By Lauren Rolland
February 15th, 2014
Here’s a new entry into the adventurer’s dictionary: surfari, the art of adventuring in search of surf.
Going on surfaris has been a long-lived tradition in my family. We often went on seemingly aimless missions up the long and windy road to the north shore, checking spots and making stops here and there. Entire weekends were spent in search of ‘ono pupus and epic surf; but that was the point – to search.
There is no other way to experience an island on a more personal level. You’re not following a brochure’s plan but maybe a couple good recommendations from friends. When on a surfari, there’s no rush as you’re just following your curiosity. Somehow, we always find the best little shops, though, and somehow sniff out the local secret eatery.
My fiancé and I always end up revisiting past surfari finds. We are known to frequent The Coffee Gallery, Waialua Bakery or the Foodland at Shark’s Cove. There’s something about cappuccinos brewed with locally-grown coffee, pesto chicken sandwiches on home-baked bread and spicy fried chicken strips and potato wedges that just complete a trip to the Country.
But the Country makes it easy to surfari. Maybe it’s the distance, or maybe it’s just magnetic. North Shore surfaris are a commitment. You are likely to get voluntarily stuck at a beach, so plan on spending at least the majority of your day adventuring.
This past weekend, I found myself in this very predicament. I was at Pupukea, watching my fiancé surf and playing with my dog in the sandbar tide-pools. We had some things to do, but somehow just could not part with the scenery. It’s like my legs were sunk in the sand; I was planted on beach and would have had it no other way!
Eventually, we had to face reality and return to our regular lives – bills, chores, responsibilities and all. However, my soul was relieved and rejuvenated. Surfaris are like R & R for the spirit, my weekly dose of adventure. And you bet I will be checking the weekend surf forecast to see what our next surfari may bring!
February 13th, 2014
It seems the Japanese kissaten culture has found its way to Hawai‘i, sort of. Back in the day, kissatens were a place to get coffee or tea. They were happening spots that eventually evolved into something more specialized – where people went to listen to music or to have business meetings. The original hipsters?
Today, kissatens have seemed to come full circle – focusing strictly on coffees and teas. They can be found throughout most of Japan, and now, there’s a kissaten in Hawai‘i. The small coffee bar on the skirts of Ala Moana Shopping Center is actually named Kissaten. For a long time, I thought it was a play on words, “kiss-a-ten.” But eventually found out exactly the meaning behind its name. Through a friend, I believe.
Like me, many customers would probably not make the connection to Japan. There are no cultural indications whatsoever – not a flag nor a kanji. It looks like a typical coffee shop to me, with dim lighting, quaint seating areas, spunky hipster music. I kind of wish the owners would have made the meaning behind the name known. But maybe that wasn’t their intention?
Either way, Kissaten is a pretty rad place. There’s an assortment of baked goods, unique breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes and – of course – coffees and teas. The prices are on the higher end, though, because one mocha latte costed me almost $5! But it was a really good mocha, so I can’t really complain, I suppose – being the coffee snob that I am. A good latte is hard to come by!
There seems to be a nice mix of locals and tourists that come through their doors. Most likely because the coffee shop is near Ala Moana Shopping Center and Waikīkī. My sister and her college buddies study there almost everyday! In fact, she was the one who told me about Kissaten and raved about how the shop is 24-hours. Take that, Starbucks!
KISSATEN COFFEE BAR / 88 Pi‘ikoi St., Honolulu, Hawaii 96814 / Opens 24 hours, Mon-Sun / www.kissatencafe.com / 808-593-1200
Posted by Alyssa S. Navares Follow me on Twitter @Uamalie87
February 6th, 2014
Every year, people get excited for the Punahou Carnival. The event raises money for the private schoolʻs financial aid program, but the real hype is about those melt-in-your-mouth malasadas, fried noodles and, well, let’s just say people really look forward to the food.
But the real question is – not whether there will be enough food or whether the kids will have fun on the rides – but if it will rain! For some reason, the first weekend in February seems to be very popular with those Hawaiian tradewind showers. It’s like they mark their calendars to pay us a visit on that weekend, specifically a visit to the Mānoa side of O‘ahu. I would say out of the 10 or so carnivals I have been to while growing up here, it has rained more than half those times.
And we all know that carnivals and rain do not make a good combo; in fact, they make mud. Lots and lots of mud, everywhere – on the sidewalks, on the carousel ponies and on your favorite pair of flats. That doesn’t mean you should not go to the carnival, though. It just means, come prepared. Wear shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty/muddy, bring an umbrella and maybe an extra pair of clothes for the little ones.
I must admit, though, that it breaks my heart when it rains during the carnival weekend. Many do not realize that the school spends months setting up and preparing for the big day in February. Parents, students, teachers and alumni put countless hours into making the Punahou Carnival a success. I know this because I drive by there everyday. When it rains, it’s almost like all of their hard work goes to waste.
Luckily, Hawai‘i people are used to those rainy days. We see it as a blessing, and as the popular saying goes, “Without rain, there can be no rainbows!” Metaphorically speaking, the rainbows come in the form of laughter and smiles, full bellies and adrenaline highs. There are many positive that come out of the carnival weekend, including the nice contribution to Punahou’s financial aid fund.
Photo Courtesy: Punahou Carnival 2014 Facebook Fanpage
Posted by Alyssa S. Navares Follow me on Twitter @Uamalie87
February 5th, 2014
After a long flight to Hawai‘i, what better way to unwind than with a little bit of yoga?
The ancient Indian practice will surely loosen those stiff necks and get the blood flowing after sitting for hours in those cramped airplane quarters. In fact, yoga has become so mainstream that it’s not uncommon for travelers to seek out ways to continue their practice from back home or to try something new during their vacay.
Luckily, Hawai‘i offers plenty of opportunities to find your inner yogi. Visitors will come across numerous studios on each of the major islands, as well as several outdoor classes at the park or beach. Even hotels and airports have been adjusting to the trend. Some hotels offer yoga at their in-house fitness centers, while several airports nationwide opened a room dedicated to the practice.
The best part (aside from feeling amazingly relaxed and rejuvenated) about yoga in Hawai‘i would have to be that it doesn’t break the bank. Yoga classes in the Aloha State costs about half as much as classes on the mainland. That’s thanks to the plethora of instructors, studios, co-ops and pop-up classes taught in backyards, houses and community centers. Also, there are quite a few studios that run strictly by donations, so travelers pay what they can afford.
Practicing yoga while on a vacation doesn’t need to take up much space in your suitcase either. All that’s needed is a mat or a towel, both of which may be easily rented from various studios and hotels. Otherwise, practice completely equipment-free on your hotel room floor or on a sandy beach. Some poses and stretches can even be done while sitting in an airplane seat or at the airport gate.
Here is a list where visitors may get their yoga on in Hawai‘i. Namaste!
Power Yoga Hawaii / Honolulu & Kahala / Donation based / www.poweryogahawaii.com
Turtle Bay Resort / Kahuku / $10 for guests and non-guests, $6 punch cards also available / www.turtlebay.com/oahu_spa/wellness
Sunset Yoga Hawaii / Waikiki / Donation-based for locals, $65 for visitors via a 5-class pass / www.sunsetyogahawaii.com
Kahala Hotel & Resort / Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) yoga, yogaquatic, yoga with weights, vinyasa yoga / $25 to $35 / www.kahalaresort.com/activities_events/fitness_center/
Lumeria Maui / Luxury educational retreat center in Pa‘ia / www.lumeriamaui.com
Hotel Wailea / Package includes 5 days of private 1-hour yoga sessions on the beach, personal yoga mat to take home, water, towels, yoga equipment, 5-night accommodation / $795 per person / www.hotelwailea.com/hotel-specials/maui-yoga/
Mauna Kea Resort / Various yoga classes offered at the in-house fitness center
Yoga Oasis / Pahoa / To see various retreats and classes, visit www.yogaoasis.org
Sheraton Po‘ipu / www.sheraton-kauai.com/property/activities/fitness
Photo Courtesy: Power Yoga Hawaii Facebook Fan Page
Posted by Alyssa S. Navares Follow me on Twitter @Uamalie87
February 3rd, 2014